Reflection of Life Through the Pandemic

Seen as yesterday marked the day where mandatory mask wearing was a thing of the past, I thought I would write a short reflection on my time in Singapore during the pandemic.

Just over a year ago I wrote an article about how I travelled home to the UK during Covid, adhered to all restrictions and still tested positive on arrival. Those who read that article would have remembered it was one of anger, annoyance and general frustration of the situation the world was in. Even though being on a Vaccinated Travel Lane flight, I still had to quarantine longer than those that were on regular, more cheaper flights, which generally left me feeling embittered about every rule and regulation.

I am here to tell you today that I no longer feel like this! I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m so happy that things have returned to the way they almost were previously! I was so frustrated seeing other countries opening up and resuming normal activities, where here in Singapore I almost felt like we were going backwards. But I now realise that all of that has been for this moment.

As opposed to some countries who massively relaxed restrictions at the expense of their own people, or reacted too drastically and have been in perpetual lockdown, I am so glad to say this I am still in Singapore. Even though at times it may have felt like we were yo-yoing in and out of mini-lockdowns, we have to look at how far we have come; in comparison to our 2.2 Million cases, only 0.08% were reported to be fatal, which, to me, is a huge win for Singapore.

Vaccines

I do think this is due to the rapid response Singapore had in relation to the vaccine; 90.85% of Singapore’s population are fully vaccinated, in comparison to the global average of 71.8% of people being fully vaccinated.

Economy

I know that during a global pandemic, economy might be the last thing that some people think about, but it is a true reflection of the individual‘s ability to earn a living. It’s wanting having our health affected, but also having our money affected as well can be life altering for the worse. Although many lost their jobs during the pandemic, Singapore did surprisingly well at rebounding it’s economy. Singapore’s total output exceeded even the pre-pandemic level. This is in comparison to certain sectors in UK, US, and a lot of Europe, where we are seeing possible recession.

Tourism

And don’t get me wrong, Singapore was not 100% immune. Major sectors such as hospitality and tourism were massively affected here, and I could definitely see how quiet the country was during the lockdown. It was very sad seeing lots of great bars and restaurants closing for good, even after government support they could not withstand the pandemic. It was pretty depressing at times walking around Sentosa seeing a ghost town. I’m very glad now to see the city bustling and full again!

Mental Well-being

This definitely became a focal point of conversation during the past few years. I even wrote an article on how to have a healthy conversation without mentioning Covid- it certainly became the main talking point with my family back at home when we Skyped every weekend, and I know most people were becoming totally fed up of it.

I really do think that Covid-19 will have a long lasting effect in terms of mental health. A few generations in particular I think will be gravely affected. The first being those that turned 18 during the lockdowns. They had had no opportunity to go out to bars or clubs (most of them have closed down now, too!) and no opportunity to develop all the social skills that you get when meeting new people in casual settings. This also goes for those who went to university or even graduated during the pandemic; I think I would be a completely different person if I did uni online. Those years really shaped me as a person; I became independent, grew up and made my own mistakes. How will people who were indoors the whole time experience that now?

The second is very young children during the pandemic. I’m no psychologist, but I can’t imagine that a baby or child only seeing the same three or four people for the first couple of years of their life had a positive impact.

Of course the last is the older generation. Maybe I’m saying this because I’m far away from home, but seeing relatives after a few years makes you realise how precious time is.

I am glad that Singapore has seemed to embrace a more open conversation when it comes to mental health, and I don’t think this would’ve happened had we not had a pandemic. So I really do see that as a step in the right direction.

Work From Home

What really was great for my mental health was when Singapore re-opened slightly so that we could have a hybrid mix of working from home and also returning to the office. Don’t get me wrong, working from home is great, but sitting in the same four walls every day was becoming very mundane. I now love the option of being able to go into the office to work and see my colleagues and have that human social interaction when I can, but not having it be mandatory. Maybe also this is due to my work; in my old job here in Singapore, when I first arrived, the work environment was incredibly toxic. Even if we were genuinely ill, we were encouraged to still come into work, and if we did take an MC, it almost felt like we were being punished when we came back. I now think this kind of behaviour in a company cannot fly post-Covid.

Conclusion

If I were to summarise and look back on the past few years, I understand why many people left the country; the rules were strict and harsh and it’s felt particularly restrictive for foreigners, especially when we could see our own countries opening up. But if I’m brutally honest, I think maybe a lot of those people might regret leaving Singapore now. We have returned to a new normal which really does feel like normal. I barely talk about Covid really with my colleagues, and everything feels a lot more free and easy. This final restriction of masks on public transport being removed, for me, really symbolises an end to a horrible point in time for us and I look forward to all the things that the future in Singapore will bring.

How To Have A Healthy Conversation Without Mentioning Covid

We’ve been stuck in this situation now for almost two years (I know, I can’t believe it), and how Covid is affecting the world can be a lot to take sometimes. I definitely get down about how things are, especially because I’m unable to see my family. But then I also feel a huge amount of guilt, because I still have my health, my husband, my job and thankfully all my family are well and safe. I know that many people are not that lucky; those that have lost family members, lost jobs, got covid themselves, stuck abroad etc…so I feel that the pandemic can affect me two-fold; feeling sorry for myself but then feeling worse for others and feeling guilty that I ever felt sorry for myself. (Have I talked about my feelings enough yet?)

Not only has Covid-19 majorly affected peoples’ mental health, it’s affected the way we communicate. Lockdowns meant that we didn’t have many new topics to chat about, most things were online so we lost that personal touch and, arguably the worst thing…we can’t seem to have a conversation without talking about COVID! So, let’s cut the chit-chat and let’s explore ways that we can have healthy conversation without bringing up 2021’s ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’…Covid-19.

Be Open Minded

It’s often difficult to talk to someone you may feel is not on the same page as you or someone who has different opinions to you, but try to be understanding of people’s situations. We all deal with stress differently, so if we all try and take other’s perspectives into account, it can lead to a healthy conversation that is not closed off or filled with animosity. Conversations are there to put us in a good mood; we are social creatures and communication mentally stimulates us. If you’re unsure of what conversation topics to start with, try finding some common ground. Even if it’s just the weather, or discussing an object in a common space, this is a good way to start and allows you both to openly talk and feel more comfortable.

Be Observant and Listen

Everybody wants to feel heard. Everyone appreciates a listening ear and no one really likes to feel like they’re being ignored or talked over. To be an active listener, try to ignore any distractions in the room; talk in a neutral environment; focus on what they are saying, not how you’re going to respond and don’t rush the conversation. Observe the other person’s body-language and facial expressions. This is great if you’re running out of stuff to talk about as well, you can comment on something they’re wearing (nicely) and ask them more about it.

  Practicing good listening also can lead to better, more valuable conversations. You can keep this going by asking open-ended questions, use affirmations to validate the other person when you agree, and always try to show an interest in what the other person is saying.

Change The Topic

When someone else brings up Covid, and you would really rather not talk about it, there are some ways you can steer the conversation away. You can use the topic to ask if anyone has learnt any new hobbies or skills, share your experiences or ask how people are handling working from home. If you’re having this conversation over a video call, take the opportunity to ask for a house tour or ask about things in the zoom, to steer the conversation away from the C word. You can talk about current pop-culture references; we’ve all upped our Netflix intake over this period, so talk about Too Hot To Handle, Squid Game or The Circle…or whatever you’ve been watching!

Here are some conversation starters if you’re getting a bit stuck:

  • Have you learnt any new recipes lately?
  • Are you working on any new projects?
  • How are your family?
  • Have you been reading anything good right now?
  • Where do you normally go for a stroll/bike ride?
  • What have you been doing to wind down in the evening?

I’m sure that one of these will land, and then you can use your other tools to build your conversation from there.

                Honesty Is the Best Policy

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to share how you’re feeling. If you don’t want to talk about the pandemic, you can firmly state that you simply do not wish to discuss it and that you want to talk about other things. This may be necessary if you feel that the other person does not share the same views with you when it comes to the rules, restrictions, vaccines or how the government is handling it. It’s not worth getting into arguments over things that you cannot change, so sometimes it’s best to just…not talk about the topic at all.

I know that all of these things are always easier said than done, but implementing a few of these tools and techniques can improve your conversations and relationships with others around you. Not only that, it can improve your mindset, making you feel calmer and in control of your discussions. I hope this has helped even one person- being mindful about these things, particularly being an active listener, has really helped me over this tough period. Stay safe everyone and we can get through this.

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Sound Of Mind

Unfortunately, Singapore are in ‘Phase 2 with Heightened Restrictions’, but let’s be real…it’s pretty much a mini lockdown. While most of us are working from home, it may be difficult to differentiate between work and…just being at home. So, I thought I would write a list of things to do at home to relax, motivate and keep you mentally stimulated, whilst not feeling bogged down with work.

  1. Exercise

I’ll get all the obvious ones out the way first. But not only is exercise good for your body physically, but 30 minutes of exercise per day can improve mental health, decrease anxiety, improve sleep and even cognitive ability. Not only can we do home workouts during this time (I prefer doing quick and intense ones at home, so that it’s over and done with!) but outdoor activities are available and some studios have classes open! (Whilst wearing a mask) This means that you can vary your workouts as to not get bored. I went for a walk with a friend yesterday, an ab workout at home this morning, and am going to an in-studio dance class (with mask) this evening. Varying your workouts means you’re less likely to get bored, and more likely to stick to it

2. Order In!

While this may go against the previous point, I do think that it’s important to treat yourself and change up your routine, and ordering food can be one way to do so. Even if it’s once a week on a Friday night, ordering in can improve your mood and make food feel less of a chore, especially if you make it a special evening. Lay the table, pour yourself a glass of wine and maybe even light some candles to make it feel like you’re dining in a restaurant. GrabFood, Deliveroo and FoodPanda have so many options right now, not just fast food, to cater to everyone. You can still be healthy and order in!

3. Pamper Yourself

Lockdown might be doing wonders for your skin…or it may not. Take this time as an opportunity to give your skin the break it needs. Not only can you get pamper items from supermarkets, shops like Lush now deliver, so you don’t even have to leave your house! Use an evening to wind down with a face mask, some bath bombs, a foot spa or a hair mask…bring the spa to you at a fraction of the cost!

4. Arts and Crafts

I remember last Circuit Breaker, everyone used the opportunity to be creative and productive. (Except me, I’m not very creative so I just spent my time cleaning everything in my apartment). While our restrictions aren’t as extreme as last year, we still can’t go out to eat or have drinks. Instead in the evening, what you can do it show a little creative flare! Websites like Fave and Klook have loads of offers on kits you can order; tie dye kits, brew your own beer, cocktail making sets…you name it! You could even buy art supplies and spend some evenings painting, music on in the background, brush in one hand and a wine glass in the other. There are many locations around Singapore that do this, so why not do it at home?!

5. Pet Your Pet

This will not apply to everyone, and I’m not saying get a pet because we’re in a lockdown (please don’t, last year hundreds of people bought pets and now so many of them are up for adoption because their owners couldn’t take care of them), but if you do have a pet, now is the time to spoil them rotten! Make toys for them, spend more quality time with them and clean their surroundings more. My rabbit is uninterested in any toy that does not involve food, so I made some ‘toys’ out of cardboard tubes or empty tubs and hid treats in them. Lazada and Shopee have a plethora of cheap toys for all pets. In a survey of pet owners, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved because of the pets in their lives.

It’s just a quick list, but these few things are not only inexpensive, but will help you break out of the mundane of working from home! Stay at home, stay safe and stay sane!